April 20, 2012

‘Girls Make Movies’ camp earns national notice

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A weeklong summer residential camp for high school girls that focuses on women filmmakers at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is receiving national attention for its efforts in addressing gender inequity across media industries.

“Ms. Magazine” blog listed SIU Carbondale’s “Girls Make Movies” summer camp “as an up-and-coming addition to this cadre of women’s media organizations.”  Female faculty members in the University’s Department of Cinema and Photography organize the camp.

The March 29 blog entry, “Future of Feminism: Girls and Women, Don’t Be CameraShy!” notes a Los Angeles Times story prior to February’s Academy Awards that showed a voting pool 94 percent Caucasian and 77 percent male. The blog also lists several organizations working to increase the number of women in the entertainment media industries.

Associate professor Susan Felleman, along with assistant professors Angela J. Aguayo, Michele Torre and Sarah Lewison, conceived the camp in 2010 in a faculty-driven initiative looking to achieve greater balance in the number of male and female media makers.  Cade Bursell, an associate professor also in cinema and photography, joined the camp instructional team last year.  Two women within the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts who have also worked hard for the camp are Deborah V. Tudor, associate dean, and Clare Mitchell, assistant dean of student affairs.

“We are exceptionally proud of the ‘Girls Make Movies’ camp,” said Gary P. Kolb, dean of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts. 

“The camp functions as a great recruiting tool, and more importantly, it is instrumental in encouraging the young women who participate to pursue careers in media production where women remain a vastly underrepresented group.  This camp helps these young women find their voices and a means to express their vision,” he said.

The camp also receives funding from the Illinois Broadcasters Association Foundation.

This year’s camp is July 8-13.  The $90 cost includes instruction, room and board, materials and activities. Registration begins Monday, April 23, and more information is available at mcma.siu.edu/camps/.

The camp also provides an opportunity for girls “to become informed about and empowered in making media and developing skills with media at an age where the disparity between young men’s and women’s sense of competency and possibility with regard to such things tends to balloon,” Felleman said.

The camp was conceived “partly out of frustration with the small number of women among film students at SIU and the obvious challenges and discrimination they faced in a classroom and industry dominated by men,” Felleman said.

But two years of the camp shows the program, which gives girls the opportunity to work with SIU Carbondale students, graduate students and faculty, is “critical for enabling them to imagine themselves in film school, the film industry, or as independent media makers,” Felleman said.

“The girls worked so hard, learned so much and made so many wonderful films,” she said.

A recent fundraiser and benefit screening of some of highlights from the first two years of the workshops, along with work by female faculty filmmakers, raised $1,100.  The funds will help defray the costs of the residential summer camp.  A special feature of the event was a screening of an award-winning short film by Lilly A. Boruszkowski, an associate professor in Cinema and Photography.  Her film, “Stan versus Squirrel,” chronicles the dynamics of invention, success and compromise as Boruszkowski’s father works to keep squirrels from scampering off with food set aside for an array of birds.